There are many entry points to this story, the chronological one being in the 1850’s onward. If we harken back to the early days of America we would find a country of self-employed farmers. In our current age of worshiping the likes of Elon Musk, we completely gloss over some incredible facts in that one sentence. We don’t even register that the majority of the people in the country were self-employed, entrepreneurs. How many people do you even know that work for themselves today? Then a massive shift in the late 1800’s, the country was becoming industrialized, and people had a boss for the first time!
For the first time people had to think about working conditions. How bad can an employer treat an employee? Prior to the factory, questions like this never crossed the American mind. They had never been at the whims of a small group, this was a country of completely self dependent people who rebelled against authority constantly. They were accustomed to deeply rewarding work that put food on their table, and gave them standing in a community.
Perhaps this was the beginning of the end of small town America. The local bread maker is now the 100th guy on the breadline in a factory. There are no longer small local economies, today we see Walmart instead of small business. Picture a small rural town pre-Walmart, they have a butcher, bakery, local grocery store, pharmacy, bike shop, and mechanic. When the butcher buys bread from the local baker, the profit(everything after his cost of business) goes to the baker. That Friday he buys meat from the butcher, and gets his son’s bike fixed at the local store. Picture that profit on each transaction. Now eliminate all of those businesses and picture Walmart. The baker and butcher went from business owner to making starvation wages. Any profit made in the small community is transported out of that town and into the Walmart bank account. Now play this scenario out all over the country with all the other massive chains. This is literally redistribution in reverse.
Fast-Forward to a different scene- American colleges present day. In any given business class students are looking as case studies of Nike, Coca Cola, Apple, etc. They are told stories about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, people who bet their whole life on massive all consuming ideas. They are the poster children of entrepreneurship and more importantly- of The American Dream itself. The idea of grandeur has absorbed americans entrepreneurial ambitions. We see the local, service business workers portrayed as morons, uncouth people who just can’t think big enough. The view is great from the college high horse while on campus.
However the fall is painful. Your robotic analyses of an underserved market that you could write a business plan for would cost millions. You don’t have it, you have no credit, loads of debt, and no experience so no one would invest. Next thing you know, you’re back in your hometown being forced to apply for jobs in some city.
This is where an interesting breakdown in supply and demand happens. Academic elitist culture has portrayed anyone in a small town, and especially the trade worker as the enemy. These are the “idiots ruining the country”, the scary backwoods characters in movies that say offensive things and harass women. This creates a blind spot for college students with business knowledge and no employment. We don’t even consider a local service business entrepreneurship, it just isn’t flashy enough. The result is all these low-middle class kids who go to college only to find they can’t find “marketing” jobs in their hometown and they are massively in debt. Yet there is a massive lack of people looking to learn skills like plumbing, hvac, roofing, etc. What is causing this mass of educated people to overlook extremely profitable work, with a rewarding self-employed freedom? Who knows, but this idea from Lacan feels like a start.
Our desire is not something innate inside us. Indeed, for Lacan our desires are not even our own – we always have to desire in the second degree, finding a path to our own desire and our own recognition by asking the question of what the Other desires.
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